Fall 2017: Jazz drummer/composer Jeff “Tain” Watts

During a residency with Harvard Jazz Bands, drummer, composer and Grammy Award-winner Jeff "Tain" Watts will offer two public events in November.

drummer, composer and Grammy Award-winner Jeff “Tain” Watts

Read Create your world by Truelian Lee '21 on the Harvard Arts Blog.

Jeff “Tain” Watts began playing snare drum in 4th grade. That launched him into the school band, orchestra and choir scenes. Eventually, he did marching band, concert bands, stage band, orchestra, and drum corps. By the time he got to Berklee College of Music, his interests and studies had ranged wildly: James Brown, the Temptations, The Jackson 5, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, P-Funk, Frank Zappa, ‘70s fusion music, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Milhaud, David Stock, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and hip hop.

At Berklee, Watts met Branford Marsalis, who recruited the drummer for his brother Wynton’s first group. Watts went on to garner three Grammy Awards with Wynton, followed by another two with Branford. He also apprenticed with many music legends such as Ron Carter, McCoy Tyner, George Benson, Gil Evans and Lew Soloff. TV and film fans will recognize him as a member of the house band on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and as a performer in Spike Lee's jazz-centric Mo' Better Blues.

Earlier this year, the New York Times wrote that Watts “might be the most important straight-ahead jazz drummer of his generation,” and the Hartford Courant described him as playing with “impressive speed, force and complexity.” 

As a composer, Watts – a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow in music composition – walks the line between contemporary classical, jazz, folkloric and hip hop. He strives for expression foremost and tries to not limit the direction of a composition. 

During a weeklong residency with the jazz bands at Harvard in November, Watts will offer two public events:

Wednesday, November 8, 5-6:30 PM: A conversation and clinic with Jeff “Tain” Watts, moderated by Bill Zildjian, with live music provided by Harvard student jazz musicians, including drummer Ethan Kripke ’20, trumpet player Miranda Agnew '21, vocalist Claire Dickson ’19, pianist Matthew Shaw ’20 and guitarist Evan Vietorisz ’20. Presented by Learning from Performers, this event will take place at Leverett House Theater, 11 Mill St. (between Plympton & DeWolfe Streets), Harvard University, Cambridge (map). Admission free (tickets or RSVPs not required). All are welcome. View event page

Saturday, November 11, 8 PM: Jeff “Tain” Watts in Concert with the Harvard Jazz Bands, Lowell Hall, 17 Kirkland Street, Cambridge (map). Tickets $10, students and seniors $5, through the Harvard Box Office at Farkas Hall, 10-12 Holyoke St., boxoffice.harvard.edu, 617.496.2222. Service fees apply for phone and online ticket orders. Some tickets may be available at the door one hour prior to start time. View event page

The residency is presented by the Office for the Arts Learning from Performers program with the Harvard Jazz Bands, under the leadership of Yosvany Terry and Mark Olson.